Monday, 12 October 2009 08:57

How to make a software roll-out fail, part 6

Rolling out a major project (ERP for instance) requires that a lot of complex factors are brought together harmoniously.  However, such a project can be brought down by more mundane choices; here's another insight.

I have written in the past about the “New Era” project which supposedly went live nearly a week ago.  Unfortunately, everyone is still frantically scrambling to bring it all together...

This five year project was supposed to be ready for go-live around July or August this year, but it became very apparent earlier in the year that this date would not be achieved.  This led the management team to declare a non-negotiable go-live of October 5th.  A little while later, this drifted to October 6th when it was realised that the 5th was a public holiday in many parts of the country.

One of the problems with non-negotiable dates is that they often have limited connection with reality and thus end up being entirely laughable.

So it is with this date.  Go-live was an event in name only.  Announcements were made this morning (six days after go-live) that sales orders for our division would not be processed for at least another week due to both data cleansing and functionality issues.  In addition, there are still huge workflow problems leaving many of the required business rules unfulfilled.

It had been implied that staff be rather vague when advising customers of processing delays, but this will soon become a three week delay (if the advised date is met – I’m not holding my breath) and many customers with urgent orders are starting to become very concerned.

So, today’s failure mode is clearly trust related.  Trust in so many relationships and in so many directions.

Management don’t seem to trust the ‘coal face’ workers to keep them properly informed of the real situation.

The implementation team don’t appear to trust their managers enough to clearly annunciate the true state of affairs.  At the same time, the team doesn’t appear to trust the rest of the company enough to tell them straight what’s really happening.  They’ll announce some module or other is ready, only to be astonished when the users pick major holes in it.

Management clearly don’t trust customers enough to tell them clearly and unambiguously what is happening.  I asked one person reasonably close to the project why a letter hadn’t been sent to all customers explaining the magnitude of the project and to appeal for leniency.  The response was little more than a shrug.  Meanwhile, front-line staff are dealing with an increasingly irritated customer body.

What this project needs is someone brave enough to speak the truth.  Is that too much to ask for?

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David Heath

David Heath has had a long and varied career in the IT industry having worked as a Pre-sales Network Engineer (remember Novell NetWare?), General Manager of IT&T for the TV Shopping Network, as a Technical manager in the Biometrics industry, and as a Technical Trainer and Instructional Designer in the industrial control sector. In all aspects, security has been a driving focus. Throughout his career, David has sought to inform and educate people and has done that through his writings and in more formal educational environments.

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